Friday, November 20, 2015

So Many Words!

Happy National Novel Writing Month! If you’re taking part in the month’s “festivities,” I hope things are going well with your project. If you need a little pep-talk, you may want to peruse this blog post by a friend of mine, Deborah.

Producing fifty thousand words of fiction in thirty days is no mean feat. I’ve never done it, but I know plenty of writers who do it year after year. I’d like to know their secret. I’ve heard that sometimes in the mad rush to write them, the words get trampled and are unusable later. But other times they’re in fine shape and the foundation of a strong novel. Some full-time writers probably work that long and hard on a regular basis. What is the difference? Perhaps plotting and planning and spending quality time on it?

Since I haven’t done the 50,000 word “NaNoWriMo” (short for National Novel Writing Month) challenge, I’m not really qualified to write about how to succeed at it, but I’ve picked up on a few things my savvy, overachieving writer friends have done. I’ve also implemented a goal for myself this month, to complete half the goal by writing 25,000 words by November 30. (It seems so comparatively small, but then, we shouldn’t downgrade any improvement we can make!)

Usually I’m a slow, painstaking writer, so although I work consistently on a novel, it takes many months to complete, and my average is about 10,000 words a month. So...how am I able to write so many more words this month?

The daily word count target to attain 50,000 by the end of November is 1,667. That seems like an overwhelming amount to some of us. I can’t yet imagine writing that many words daily on a single novel for thirty days straight. But this month I surprised myself by exceeding that target on two days, and they were decent, usable words, too. What was different? Why did it work so well?

Every writer is unique, so what I’ve been doing won’t necessarily work for you, but maybe at least one of these tips will help out or inspire you:

  • I had a clear idea of where I was headed next in the story each time I sat down to write.
  • I committed to writing at least 834 words every day.
  • I made it a daily priority. One day I was gone from home, but I made up for it the next day (which was when I got over 1,667 words in).
  • I didn’t overthink what I was writing. I didn’t fling down words, and though I did a bit of editing to make sure they stayed good quality, I didn’t sweat getting every little word or detail right. I put off extra research for later. As a result, the words flowed easily and quickly.
  • I cut down on other activities when I could. This gave me more time and a less cluttered mind. (In fact, this article was kind of done at the last minute...)
  • I pondered and planned while I couldn’t actively write. It takes only a few moments to make a crucial decision for a story, one that will undo a plot snag or lay down a clear path for the story to travel next.
  • I told people about my goal and whether I reached it each day. Accountability works!
  • I prayed about it. God gives strength where we are weak, that’s for sure.
  • I thoroughly enjoyed it! The more I wrote, the more I wanted to write. Nearly every night, I closed my story with reluctance. As my blogging friend wrote in her article, love for one’s story is a major motivator.

So whether you’re doing NaNo, or plugging along on your own time, keep it up! Have fun reaching your goal—the joy is in the journey maxim is especially true for writing! In fact, taking joy in the writing journey is what carries you to the finish.

Back in spring, we had a discussion about writing goals. This is more about how slow writers can write faster, or how we can keep up momentum. Are you a slow writer, or a fast writer? What do you do to make each individual session more productive?

Before I forget...
Unsplash, edited

Kelsey Bryant is an author, blogger, and copy editor who loves the Lord. She revels in many things: the beauty of God's Word, the music of English, the wonder of nature, the joy of creativity, the freedom of motion, the richness of literature, the intrigue of history ... and much more. To learn more about her, visit her website or blog

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Beginning Authors Need Readers, Not Money

Greetings all, John J. Horn here.

Most authors tell you the same thing: It's hard to make a lot of money from books.

It's really hard to write a bestseller. If you're going to make enough money from writing to be a full-time writer, the most likely way you'll make it happen is by writing many books, none of which are bestsellers, but which add up to a decent income.

When you're a beginning author, you don't have that backlist of books bringing you a small but steady royalty check. That's why readers, not money, should be your goal.

I still consider myself a beginning author. My first books came out a couple of years ago, but I'm young and I have much to learn about the art of writing. And I have to build a backlist of books. That's why my number one goal is not to make money from my books, but to get them into the hands of as many readers in my target audience as possible.

This is a model that many startups and apps use. It's why venture capitalists give hundreds of millions of dollars to businesses that are losing money. First you build a customer base of people who like your product/service and use it regularly. Then you monetize your users.

There's nothing wrong with making money from the beginning as an author, and if you can do it, super! But my recommendation to any beginning author reading this is to focus more on getting brand recognition and an audience which is excited about your books, than on maximizing your royalty checks.

You also don't want to undervalue your books. Giving away everything you write for free might not be a good plan, because people generally value content based upon how much they pay for it. If you can find that happy medium of charging enough for your books to show that they're worth an investment, but also maximizing the number of readers who will pick up your book, then you're well on your way.

John J. Horn is a Christian author from Texas. Purchase his Men of Grit series from Amazon here and sign up for his newsletter at johnjhornbooks.com.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Being Inspired by Real Lives



[ The NEW EDITIONS of the Baker Family Adventures are now available from Grace & Truth Books!  Find them HERE - plus many other titles and free shipping on orders over $49!]







It’s November.

For many of us, that means general busyness. For some of us, it means NaNoWriMo, a deluge of words and ideas when we slip so frequently from real life to the fictional world that the challenge can become figuring out which one we’re living.

I’m not doing NaNo this year, but I sure know what it’s like to have a tired ol’ brain that feels dry as a wrung-out sponge. A great way to spark enthusiasm for a project is to be inspired by the lives of people who went before us. Some of these characters of the real world achieved amazing things by being diligent with the talents and opportunities they’d been given. They used their time wisely, and exercised faith and determination to press through challenges. (Hint: many of them lived before Netflix.) This is inspiring stuff, no matter what your field of work.


Saints and Scoundrels

Saints and Scoundrels, by Mr. Robin Phillips, is packed with biographies of men and women who either used their abilities for God’s glory or twisted them to suit their own ends. We read of heroes of the faith: little-known ones like Thomas Chalmers and Edmund Burke, as well as famous ones like J.S. Bach and Jim Elliot. We read of villains—King Herod, Rousseau, Gramsci—and their impact on today’s culture.

Each “life” is compact enough to enjoy (or deplore) in one sitting, so if you can squeeze a bit of time for reading into your evenings, do look out for a copy. If you’re a NaNo-er, pressed for time and in need of encouragement, here are a couple of facts to set you going!

- Columbanus was a Celtic monk-and-missionary who spread the Gospel across Europe. His more Biblical view of forgiveness set him at odds with the pope—but this opposition didn’t stop his work.

 - J. S. Bach—we all know of the glorious music, but how many of us know about the man? Johann Sebastian wrote hundreds of cantatas while holding a position that demanded most of his time. Not only did he have a Christ-glorifying approach to composing, and influenced students to the same end, he also is credited with turning people to Christ long after his death … through his music. (What does this say about the potential of literature?)

- Dorothy Sayers became a wholehearted advocate of the exciting glories of the Gospel, working against the dull Gnosticism that had taken over the Church in her day. She aimed, and succeeded, to show the real light and life of Christian doctrine in God’s Word without the stuffy veneer that had driven her away as a youngster.

If you’re looking for inspirational material to jump-start flagging morale, check out the Saints and Scoundrels biography collection here.
If you’re up to your elbows in nouns, languishing and in need of some fiction, do grab a Baker Family Adventure to read at your leisure once NaNo is over! 

What are some of your favorite biographies? Why?
What inspires you to rise above challenges and accomplish hard things?

   Caitlin R. Hedgcock is a Christian author who aspires to use storytelling for God’s glory. She lives with her family in England's picturesque county of Hertfordshire. Visit her website or Facebook page to find out more.